Protecting Your Home During Vacations
Your big screen TV is missing! You go to your bedroom and your jewelry box is gone. You check your garage, and your electric bikes and ride-on mower are nowhere to be found. This is a terrible end to what was a wonderful summer vacation.
Some things can be replaced, but some things of a sentimental value cannot.You feel violated; torn between fear and rage.Your insurance may cover most of the monetary costs, but they may not.
In addition to your luggage, there is a lot to unpack here, and you don't want this sad scenario playing out in your own home. Here are some things you need to know and practice to enjoy a happy home-coming at the end of your summer vacation.
Review your property insurance coverage to see what precautions your insurance company insists you take before you leave your home vacant for any length of time. There may be a requirement that the home is visited on a regular basis during your absence – to ensure that any mishaps or security issues are discovered in a timely manner. Claims may be denied if you don't take the requisite measures.
A trusted friend, neighbour, or family member may be available to drop in daily and report any concerns to you and/or the appropriate authorities. There are also individuals and companies that offer drop-by or house-sitting services. Prompt action by such a visitor can eliminate or reduce potential losses.
Document your possessions. Take photos and write descriptions of valuable items in your home. This can include appliances, entertainment systems, jewelry, art, yard equipment, and vehicles. Keep that information in an electronic file in the cloud or on a thumb drive kept off-site. This can be extremely helpful if you ever must submit a claim to your insurance company.
Make sure your coverage limits are going to be adequate.If in doubt about any of the above, contact your insurance agent for further information. This a good practice for vacation absences, but also serves in the event of a sudden, unexpected loss such as a fire or a flash flood.
Water - The largest single source of home insurance claims is water damage. If you have planned a prolonged absence from your home (or cottage), turn off the main water supply – especially in the winter. In the winter, you should also drain the supply pipes throughout the home. You can do this, after you have turned off the main water supply valve, by opening the taps at the lowest sink in the home and the highest faucets in the home. This will drain most of the supply pipes and reduce the likelihood of frozen and burst pipes. You may also want to turn off and drain your water heater. Drainpipes should be protected as well. You can install biologically safe anti-freeze in the drain traps that you are unable to drain.
For shorter absences, make sure the home is visited once a day. If you are leaving pets to be cared for, you will not want to shut off the water supply.
Fire – most house fires are caused by some type of human action; improper use of a wood-stove or fireplace, stove top grease fires, unattended patio grills, etc. So, in your absence, the risk of a house fire is automatically reduced. However, some house fires will be caused by electrical or mechanical devices in the home. Make certain to turn off any pilot lights and related gas or propane supplies.
Having a monitored alarm system in the home can ensure prompt action and minimize losses. With present day wi-fi enabled systems, you can even receive a personal alert on your cell phone. Consult with a qualified security professional to determine which system works best for your needs and budget.
Security – In addition to losses caused by fire and water, a vacant home is a ripe target for thieves. In addition to the measures previously discussed, there are other things you may consider:
- Do not announce your planned absence on social media platforms. As much as you want to share your exciting vacations plans with your followers, you will also be alerting strangers who monitor these platforms as a means of targeting homes for theft. Do not post vacation photos while you are away; you can share your photographs and experiences when you have returned home.
- Exterior cameras can be strategically placed to cover the main points of entry into your home (doorbell cameras come to mind). These cameras can be motion-activated and may be equipped with lights, and an alarm or voice response. There are many wired and wireless options in the marketplace. Wi-fi enabled devices can alert you to intruders as long as you have internet access on your cell phone. The prices are quite reasonable when weighed against the cost of potential losses. Also, some property insurance companies may offer you a reduced premium if security devices are installed.
- Wi-fi enabled electronic entry door locks may allow you to assign different entry codes to trusted friends, trades people, family members, and neighbours. Their entries and exits will be logged for future reference if needed.
- Alert your nearest neighbours (assuming they are trusted) that you will be away. They can keep a watchful eye on your property and report any unusual activities.
- You may have deliveries that need to be retrieved in your absence. Ask a neighbour to pick up those packages while you are gone.
- If you have a detached garage or shed where you keep valuable equipment, make certain they are well-secured, and the valuable contents are documented.
- Small, portable valuables such as jewelry can be removed from the home and placed in a secure situation with a trusted friend, family member, or in a security locker.
- Eliminate hiding places close to your home. Overgrown shrubs come to mind.
- Maintain a well-lit exterior at night.LED lighting has a very low operating cost.
- Have some lights in your home on timers that will turn them on and off in the overnight hours; to create the illusion of activity in your house.
Returning home after a well-earned vacation should be a happy occasion, not a nightmare. Following the above advice can increase the likelihood of a safe and comforting return to your familiar life.